In addition, $12.8 million was given to the City of Chicago as part of a federal bioterrorism bill President Bush signed earlier this year. The bill offers three cities $1.1 billion for bioterrorism actions. All funding for cities and states was on hold–with the exception of 20 percent--until plans were approved to deal with such acts.
"Today we're going to take a giant step forward in strengthening our preparedness here in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois," Thompson said at a news conference in the new Cook County Hospital, set to open this summer.
Much of the funds will be distributed as grant money and reportedly will go towards a new system that will network hospitals, health departments and doctors; improving laboratories; and for purchasing decontamination equipment.
In addition, Christie Whitman, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said other funds from the EPA will be offered to the city's of Elgin, Naperville, Benton and Wilmette to assess their drinking water system vulnerability.
Whitman stated that checks are being sent to the San Juan Water District in Calif. ($115,000); Rend Lake Conservancy District in Benton, Ill. ($96,000); City of Elgin, Ill. ($115,000); City of Naperville, Ill. ($115,000); City of Wilmette, Ill. ($115,000), and the Orlando Utilities Commission in Orlando, Fla. ($115,000).
EPA also will work with states, tribes and appropriate organizations to further develop and disseminate tools and support security efforts at small and medium drinking water and wastewater systems.
In response to the attacks of Sept. 11, EPA received a supplemental appropriation from Congress to improve the safety and security of the nation's water supply. The nearly $90 million is intended to reduce the vulnerability of water utilities to terrorist attacks and to help enhance their security and ability to respond to emergency situations.
EPA has allocated $53 million of the supplemental for security planning at large drinking water utilities. The large water utilities serve more than 100,000 people each and provide drinking water to about half of Americans served by public water systems. To date, a total of 384 grant applications have been received. Each award will be up to $115,000. Any remaining funds will be directed to other security planning needs.
Development of a vulnerability assessment is the highest priority activity under this grant program, since it is the first step in understanding where a utility can be damaged by terrorist attack. Funds may also be used for development of an emergency operations plan and to design security enhancements, or a combination of these efforts.
In cooperation with the FBI, EPA also has advised local law enforcement agencies across the country of steps they can take to help watch for possible threats to water systems. The agency also continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to improve understanding of the way the chemical and biological agents of concern act in water and how to best counteract them.
Source: By Wendi Hope King; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Tribune